Songs From My Childhood

I’m not old. I did, however, have a childhood. Here’s a collection of songs I loved back then, and my memories attached to them:

1) Kittie-Charlotte

Kittie were one of the best known of the mediocre non-operatic girl metal bands that emerged at the turn of the century. Pure guilty pleasure this. I remember I had it on a mix cd when I lived in America, not sure where I originally had it from. It saw me through some rough times. Then, a year or so later, I went on a journey in France, real growing up experience. I must have been about 14-15. I stayed for a fortnight in a camp/hostel type place, where I met the first girl I fell “in love” with (it probably wasn’t anything like that, although it felt that way at the time). In a small French town this album was in the bargain bin, and I bought it and loved it all over again. I also bought this album…

2)Bloodhound Gang-Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny

One Fierce Beer Coaster wasn’t the first Bloodhound Gang album I bought. Looking back, it may have actually been the last. I bought it for the Run DMC cover, but the opening track sums up both the album and the band pretty well. When you’re a kid, this shit is funny.

3)Bad Religion-You

Instantly became my favourite song when I heard it. I liked punk, but the delivery, the vocabulary, and the intelligence in one place… I’d never heard anything like it. I remember it being included on Tony Hawks 2, which still has the finest videogame soundtrack of all time.

4)Monster Magnet-All Shook Out

Already a big fan of MM, I remember God Says No being one of the first albums I eagerly counted down the days to.  I loved it, and this song was among my favourites. It was almost tradition that MM came over to England in March, near my birthday, and at least three (now ex)girlfriends have taken me to see them as a birthday present. They’re playing London in December this year, and I’ll be buying my own ticket this time!

5)Pitchshifter-Down

Not nu-metal, not punk, not industrial, Pitchshifter are one of the most underrated bands this country has ever produced. This song pretty much sums up my summers, dicking about in Harringey, Ali Pali, and Enfield, heading around various skateparks, trying to impress girls, destroying Dazz’s house, and practically living at Andys house. His front door was never actually closed… in fact, I’m sure it once went a week wide open, day and night. Nothing ever got stolen though, because we’d be playing this really loud, as well as the next two…

6)The Offspring-All I Want

7)The Wildhearts-Vanilla Radio

… yeah some damn good skater memories there.

I wasn’t immune to the Nu-Metal though. These guys were so underrated, and awesome when I was 13:

8)hed (PE)-Waiting To Die

This was one of my angry songs. I was never a storm into my room kinda guy, but this made more than enough appearances through my stereo.

9)Killing Joke-Seeing Red

When Killing Joke returned back on the scene in 2002, it was pretty major for me. It was one of the first times I’d heard such a versatile band. I still wasn’t as big into Industrial music as I’d eventually be, but this is what pointed me in the right direction. I love every song from their self titles album (their second one).

10)Janes Addiction-Just Because

Another reformation that got my blood going. Sadly it phased out quite quickly, but this was a cracking tune.

Honourable mentions go to Faith No More, Transplants (almost 10 years since Diamonds and Guns!), Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. If you knew me as a kid, you know that these guys and The Offspring were constantly on my tape player (retro). However, FNM, NIN, and Metallica went on to form my adult taste in music, and the Transplants’ shitty second album automatically omits them from this list. Still, listening to some of these tracks is a mental blast to the past, much like the final three:

Muse-Sunburn

Placebo-Pure Morning

Sugarcoma-Crazy

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Lady Gaga-Born This Way

Record labels once feared the internet, probably because they never realised what potential it had for developing social tools, and then using them as an advertising dive board to infiltrate the shallow minded mass right at the deep end.

A few years ago, this platform was Myspace, which sadly launched the careers of the Artic Monkeys, and, perhaps a bit more positively, Lily Allen. Now however, you have Twitter, LastFm, Tumblr etc. Not Facebook though, only Mark Zuckerberg and apparently Justin Timberlake  are allowed to become rich from that. No musical talent to see here folks.

Lady Gaga is one of these internet-to-star types, a former songwriter who decided she could do better herself.  Seeing as these guys take up the 50% of the pop industry, that isn’t currently being occupied by whatever democratically-voted-for-warbler-from-whatever-television-reality-show-is-big this-week, this isn’t much of a shock, although considering the substantial success of the pop music situation, you have to really question how bad the music industry really is doing?

Born This Way is a dull title for a dull album, a paint by numbers joke that should be struck off under the trade descriptions act. Unless she was born plagiarising other, better pop artists, then the title is misleading. Obviously pandering to the pro equality youth (read: middle class teens with expendable income, and the adults who missed out on that stage), this is a collection of songs that are crafted to be easy to swallow, and have played at you in a chain pub, usually at volumes designed to tune out the crackling static that the Lady Gaga fanbase has instead of brain activity. Throwing in motivational lyrics such as “I was born this way”, and then juxtaposing them against edgy and controversial lyrics “Judas”… no, sod this, there is no way in which I can seriously critique an album so full of cliché and stereotype, especially as it clearly isn’t meant to be a comedy record. If Lady Gaga REALLY believes that this is good, she’s stupid. If she is doing it to make a fuck load of money from morons, she’s got a good manager. Either way, there is something valuable missing from the whole process: integrity.

Lady Gaga is almost certainly very talented, but she learned early in her career that people paid more attention to her for her stupid clothes and her pop-up-pirate penis, and so stopped making any effort. Maybe she should drop the pretence, and write a song entitled “my fans are all gullible cunts”.

And yeah, I’m going to go there: She isn’t as good as Madonna, but is ripping her off, even down the the British fetishism. Go away Lady Gaga, please just leave us alone.

High Voltage Festival… a review/comparison

If you are one of the 3 people who read this blog, you may have come across my Sonisphere bashing. Well, Soni wasn’t the only fest I attended this year.

The festival organisers of the bigger festivals in the UK have been on record referring to these smaller, more intimate affairs as “boutique festivals”. They explain this term as meaning smaller, more specialised, in terms of the music and the core audience. They are also almost definitely aware of just how shit it makes them sound, like an art bitch’s dearest haunt to buy lace and retro clothing. This is what we call a sneaky marketing ploy. Of course the truth of the matter is that neither Download nor Sonisphere have a much broader audience, being so firmly rooted in whatever decade of music is popular with the kids at the moment. Oh, Download has made efforts to expand its horizons to the older generation, but it dare not compromise its safety net of 16-25 year olds who want to get hammered and listen to something they saw on TV. High Voltage doesn’t seem to want to compromise like this. It’s early days yet, being only in its second year, but already it’s known for one very specific thing: the attitude that REAL rock music never dies.

The launch of High Voltage can be traced back to a fairly specific event, ripping it off in a manner that is as ruthlessly cold and businesslike as the larger festivals slyly belittling High Voltage in interviews. It started after Download 2009, where for the first time did Download not only sell out, but also had a day full of classic rock (and a field full of Dads). I was at this festival, and it was phenomenal. People stood up and took notice. Classic and Prog Rock fans were not only still willing to go see their heroes, but now they were middle aged, they also had that special rarity at a non-Glastonbury festival. I’m talking about disposable income.

The double whammy of the unexpected success of Download, came from the fact that younger audiences actually really liked this music too. This wasn’t Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd playing, this was ZZ Top, Journey and Whitesnake. These weren’t the bands that television had been banging on about since the members stopped playing, these were some of the finest artists still touring. And someone took notice. The next year, in association with Classic Rock magazine, High Voltage was launched, with a lineup to make every neck beard itch, and every anorak sweaty. With ZZTop and ELP on top billing, High Voltage was here and taking no prisoners. And I didn’t go. Why? It cost £150, that’s why. This year, the weekend cost £99, which already improved things a lot. It showed that these guys might actually listen to the punters.

This festival, a mere 30 mins or so from my front door, is good. Like, really fucking good. It’s reduced size, and more laid back audience members make for a great atmosphere. The shop to arena size ratio works nicely. Everything is flat, but nothing is hard to see. The televisions are at the proper height *cough*Sonisphere*cough*. The main stage compares to the Download second stage, in terms of size and capacity, but believe me when I say that it’s enough.  They send you your wristband in the post to speed up entry into the site. This festival is, actually, really really good.

Bar? Well, either no queues, or fast moving ones. NO PEAR CIDER. Same prices as Sonisphere. They give you your drinks as they come, which for me was in cans (ice cold). Considering I was drinking strong lager in a field in East London, I don’t think I could have felt more at home. So, what was bad? Well, it’s certainly a two day maximum jobbie. There isn’t enough shite for another day, although I doubt that it’s ever going to be an intention. There were a few sound cock ups, human errors I think, but some were pretty bad. Not much shade, but welcome to festivals in Britain. Oh and there was no sniffer dogs or any sort of in depth check like that. Perhaps sniffer dogs die from shock in East London, but lets just say you don’t need a super keen sense of smell to notice the additional atmosphere that was floating about your head. For me, this was sorta nice, because although I didn’t participate, it made me wonder how many aged hippies and rockers were happily reliving their youth. I’d like to have that kind of experience when I’m older. I can see it annoying other people though, so I think its contribution to the festival kinda has to stay on the fence.

So yeah, I had a good time. I guess the elephant in the room is the fact that this is a no camping festival.  If you aren’t local, this fest could easily run up a large festival sized bill in both accommodation and transport (if you couldn’t get any local accommodation). I live up the road though, so fuck that!

I saw more bands than I did at Soni, so here’s a roundup:

Michael Monroe: Great opener, looks like a melted Pamela Anderson, climbed the stage

Rival Sons: Amazing new band, very LedZep/Free influenced, give them a listen

Anathema: Prog. Not to my tastes, but seemed to play quite well.

Thin Lizzy: Far exceeded expectations, played every song I wanted them to. ‘Nuff said. (sound problems)

Slash: Very good, didn’t change my world, but didn’t hit a bum note.

Judas Priest: Incredible, so much better than the last time I saw them. Gonna miss these guys.

Furyon: I think it was these guys I saw… their songs seemed to be a string of pinch harmonics interrupted by some drumming. At least, to my old git ears.

Heavens Basement: Dull whippersnappers, did the best with the clearly-not-interested older crowd, but failed to impress. Not for me, but they did have a lot of energy. Your mum will fancy them.

Saint Jude: What a voice! Great new band, give them a see if they’re playing near you. I need to catch them again. Do it!

Michael Schenker : Fantastic showman, great musician, brought on Rudolph for “Rock you like a Hurricane”, and closed on “Doctor Doctor (Please)”. Had bad sound problems.

Thunder: One off reunion (apparently). Absolutely amazing, but had even worse sound problems at the beginning.

Black Country Communion: Far exceeded expectation, played “Burn” by Hughes’ Deep Purple just as I actually was.

Dream Theater: There’s only one Dream Theater in the world, for a good reason. Blinding gig and showmanship, but as with anything like this, it’s an endurance test to witness. Only band not to play the obvious hit, which was actually slightly disappointing. DT drum solo kinda made up for it though.

In conclusion, much better. Might be at Newquay Boardmasters in a few weeks, so watch this space.

Sonisphere Festival… a review/comparison

So here is a very brief review of the UK Sonisphere Festival, with comparisons to its main competitor, the Download Festival.

Straight off the bat, the line-up this year for Sonisphere was great. Kudos. Anthrax played an ok set, but as a John Bush-era Anthrax fan, Joey Belladonna just doesn’t cut it for me. Megadeth played the best performance that I’ve seen of them in… well, years. Top work. Due to unforeseen circumstances I didn’t see Slayer, but I caught all of Metallica, and it was as blinding as you’d expect. My Metallica issue was that they seem to be playing the same set list at every Sonisphere in Europe, and their set felt like it lacked that personal touch and enthusiasm that Metallica so often bring to their live shows. Still, there are few bands in the world who can play like that, so I’ll let them off.

So, in comparison to Download? Sonisphere isn’t as good.This isn’t a fanboyish attack on fans of Sonisphere, but it’s just cold maths on my experience. After three years being established, you’d have hoped that the festival was better put together (especially considering the experience of the organisers) but they seem to be too interested in creating a Euro-dominating chain of branded festivals, and perhaps it’s this fest-by-numbers approach that leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s a note: chains work when an original business gains popularity for a particular reason, and not when people throw buckets of money at a dubious concept.

Anywho, why do I feel this way? Well, let’s start with the layout. One of Download’s biggest “issues” is the walk from campsite to arena. Personally, while it isn’t ideal, I feel that this segregation leads to a far better community feeling at the fest, but maybe that’s just me. Also, I quite like walking.
I’d heard that Sonisphere had contiguous campsites and arenas, which sounded like an improvement on the long walk, plus the greater possibility of a better nightlife, with more people willing to stay out, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t face an exhausting walk in the dark. The reality of this is somewhat different though, as the campsites are still large and far away. If you want any sort of peace, you have to camp so far away from the arena, it renders any possible benefits moot.
On a similar note, the campsites are on a variety of hills and steep inclines, which I can’t imagine is fun drunk, in the rain, or drunk in the rain. They were also pretty exhausting to walk up and down, something that the tarmac and flat grass of Download doesn’t inflict on you.

While the campsites may give the drunk teens vertigo, most of the arena isn’t must better. With some of the fairground rides parked perilously on steep mounds, as well as the bar and food stalls, I began to feel slightly seasick. Oh, but there is one part that isn’t on a hill at all: the main stage.
This slightly annoyed me, but infuriated some of my shorter companions. There is no incline at all by the main stage, meaning that for shorter people   it’s impossible to see the band from a large percentage of the arena grounds. For some reason the television screens were placed very low on the stage, meaning that dependant on location, many of my entourage had views ranging from nil to fuck all. While this would be an improvement at a Lady Gaga concert, it’s not so good when you are trying to watch actual musical talent.

Sonisphere decided to roll out a dual stage system that people had apparently been demanding, where two stages that faced each other would be used, so that they could be interchangeably performed on and set up simultaneously. This meant that on the “first” and “second” stages (I’m not going to bother referring to the stages by their space themed names) would not clash bands, and the festival goers could then watch everything (at least on those stages) that they desired. To me, this seemed like an over complicated solution to a problem is best solved with intelligent booking and band placement, something that all other festivals opt to do, but dual stages are the unique selling point of Sonisphere (I think), so don’t expect them to go away. In theory it could be quite a good system, but the reality is again hampered by the natural hills and slopes, meaning that simply turning around to view the next stage isn’t an option. The second stage is out of sight from the first one, and is a fair walk. It’s no where near as far apart as the main/second stages at Download, but problems can arise when large portions of the main stage crowd head over to the second stage at Sonisphere, because when there’s nothing fucking on the main stage, there is something new on the second stage. At least clashes demand something of the pundit, namely that they choose beforehand what they would like to see, and prioritise, sometimes leaving another performance early. Truth be told, it wasn’t the biggest issue, but it sure didn’t work the way that it was sold to me.

Other comparisons? Well, the bar didn’t have pear cider, staple of festival booze, and it cost more than Download (at £4 a drink), BUT I always got served very quickly, and they ran a cash bar, so I’d go for that being a win. They had a large selection of drinks, but I stuck to lager. Would have preferred pear cider. Just sayin’. Sonisphere also hosts a bottle decanting tent outside the festival, meaning you can bring in any booze that’s put in a plastic bottle, definitely a pro, (doubly so when you consider that you can walk straight through to the main arena without being searched again).  Sonisphere runs the seemingly mandatory cups-for-cash scheme, like every other sodding festival in the world. Considering children under a certain age are allowed in for free, I can see some wiley slave labourers making a fortune out of this. It’s like gold farming, but with added elements of child abuse. So… a win?

The usual selection of stalls, food and rides were available, much like Downloads, only due to the layout difference, the day ticket holders got more than they do at Download. So kudos there, I guess. I suppose it’s handy for people who don’t live close to Afflecks Palace/Camden Town etc.

The layout of Sonisphere means that arena and campsite capacity is equal, meaning they want to only sell weekend tickets. This is ok in theory, but very few non-Glastonbury festivals sell out, and so to shift remaining tickets, this years festival was opened up to day ticket people, who objected to shelling out more money for less bands (compared to Download). Again, this was great in theory, but in practice was a bit of a confusion. To get to car parks or bus stops, you have to leave through the camp sites, which aren’t very well guarded. I could have easily stayed for the weekend if someone had pitched a tent for me. The wristbands were paper, so any one who had got there early could have emailed me a photo of it, and via photoshop I could have easily whipped up a sufficiently realistic wristband. There were nowhere near enough staff to police this. There was also a lack of information regarding where anything was. I saw some tents and stuff, but couldn’t find them. Official merchandise was thin on the ground, bar t shirts, and I had no idea where first aid, or pharmaceutical stalls were. I didn’t need them, but it’s always nice to know.

There was a massive bother entering and leaving the site. The shuttle busses had a 2 hour queue heading into the site at midday on Friday. This is confusing and agrravating in equal measure. Aggravating when there are a few hundred people queuing impressively patiently, while no less than four bus drivers decided to take their lunch breaks directly in front of the queue (no lie), despite the arena opening at around the same time. It was confusing as you’d have thought getting people into the bars and shops before bands were on would be something of a business priority for the festival organisers. The situation was similar on the way out. This in itself is a bitch because the last train leaves only 20 minutes after the headline act finishes: you’re lucky to be out of the arena by then. The taxi ranks was no better, and the £5 cab to the station (as advertised on the official website) cost £15. Apparently the prices change after a certain time, so I’d recommend that the festival organisers research this a bit better, and/or strike a deal with the cab companies. Similarly, having maybe a few more late night trains running especially for the festival would not go amiss. That and more regular shuttle busses. It got to the point where people were being asked £150 to get to London (fact: it’s not that far away), and people were actually paying it. Me? Alongside maybe 60+ other metalheads, I had to sleep in the station subway. Tramps en masse.

So, Sonisphere? Well, it’s a hell of a lot closer to my home than Download, but completely lacked the same atmosphere and spirit. People were friendly, although we didn’t really meet any random people like we might at Download, and it was definitely a big ol’ sausage fest. It has some growing and reorganising to do before I can take it seriously, and before I’d reconsider going back. It lacks that happiness and mixture of people that it needs to capture the charm and consistency of Download. So no, it isn’t as good. Oh, and it didn’t have any fucking pear cider.

PS A festival without amateur tits being flashed on screen is like a World Cup with realistic expectations. Un-British and  Disappointing.

Chickenfoot-Chickenfoot

I’ve now listened to this album long enough to have complaints, so lets rip!

Seriously, that IS my attitude. I hate current film or music reviews, where the reviewer gets caught up in the moment and atmosphere of things, and gives  a review that they’d later regret. I also hate it when shortly after something is released, reviewers withdraw their articles, due to  contrary opinions from the public (Kerrang! and St Anger, I’m looking at you here). As such, I tend to leave all reviews until long since anybody last cared, to get the most accurate result out of it. There’s a method to this crap, you know.

Like most other reviews I’ve done, this is mostly inspired by a new release. I guess it’s retrospective, before the retro really kicks in.  I like to deliver them slightly too late for anything constructive to be taken from it either. That way we don’t have to worry about law suits, and me becoming a millionaire. Nobody wants that.

Soooo… Chickenfoot. I remember hearing about this “supergroup” when it was still a rumour, and I’ll be honest: I was fucking stoked. I’ve seen Joe Satriani about a bazillion times live, I think Chad Smith is a great drummer, and surely Sammy and Michael were going to bring some Van Halen grandeur to the stage… what could be better? Everyone was belly aching about Them Crooked Vultures, or whoever, but for me Chickenfoot was going to be the big deal.

Their eponymous debut went down the garage band jam-session type of route, as opposed to the stadium rock kinda route, which all of the members could pull off without breaking a sweat. This gains a lot of respect for me, as they really are starting from scratch. It’s also the weakest aspect of the album.

This album is as ye-haw American as possible, and it’s VERY Sammy Hagar. He’s singing about the kinda trailer trash women he likes, and about Mexicans (whom he lovingly refers to as “Wetbacks”, although I don’t think it’s supposed to be racist). He’s powering out his drawl, and it makes me wonder how he ever fronted Van Halen. These are VERY different bands, and it’s a bit disappointing.

I think I was expecting stadium rock, with a funk feel, as contributed by  Chad and Joe, who in particular feels like he’s sitting in the background a lot. Perhaps it’s because he’s constantly in the foreground in his own music, but you don’t put Joe fucking Satriani in a band, and expect him to just play by numbers. The one big contribution he makes is the riff for “Down the Drain”, easily one of the best rock songs I’ve ever heard. Another good song on this is Get It Up, or Avenida Revolution… actually they’re all good. Only Down the Drain is really great though.

Straight up, I say if you like rock music, listen to this album, There’s room to grow here, and I think they should concentrate full time on this project.  There’s a live DVD which is far better than the CD, strangely enough. Get that in HD, and watch in awe at Satch’s skills, Chad’s punk attitude, Sammy’s ‘fro and Michael Anthony’s impossibly large neck, complete with mullet.

Where should Chickenfoot go? Here’s a guide by guide step:

1) Better lyrics. Stop Sammy from writing them all.  Or, if he has to, change the smut. They’re all smutty, but smut can be handled so much better. Case in point: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin. If Led Zep could get away with lyrics like “I wanna give you every inch of my love”, and have the song put as the intro to kid friendly Top Of The Pops, you guys can too.

2) Rub some funk on it. If there was ever a band that could deviate into 10 minute rambling jams, it’s this one. These have needed a comeback since the seventies. Them Crooked Vultures have tried, but just compare the calibre of musicianship here. Do it.

3) Pull the songs out of America. I get it, you guys are American manlymen, but the great rock bands never let that overshadow their lyrics. Make it more accessible, and maybe a bit more topical.

4) Push Joe. Every time he writes something awesome, send him back and make him do it better. He can. He’s Joe Satriani.

5) Glue Chad to the drum kit. He’s going to keep fucking off back to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, like a battered housewife. You guys need to make an intervention man.

6)  Tour this one more, and add festivals to your schedule. Festivals are impossibly popular, and even if you ignore everything else I say, this is a must. There ARE people that will see you, and love you, out of interest, who may not care enough to listen to your cd, or visit an independent show. Tour festivals. You guys know you can command a mid afternoon slot on main stage anywhere, or even a higher slot on a second stage at a rock fest. Do it.

Yeah, this post was pretty light, but I’m still pretty spent from the last one 🙂

5 Awesome Live Albums

I had written this post already just as my browser crashed, thus destroying around an hour and half of typing. Needless to say, I am one angry bastard, but I’m also stubborn, and so am rewriting it, hopefully slightly faster as I have written it before. Not used to this site, I was oblivious to the huge “Save Draft” button on the screen, one which I am clicking with furious repetition.

I had begun by announcing that as a new member to this site, I would calm the over-critical bile that festers within, as a way a introducing myself gently. As you can imagine, that temperament is quickly changing, so I’m going to try to finish this as quickly as possible. The following reviews will be pretty abridged, but I daresay you people reading this will be pleased of that, won’t you, you judgmental pricks?

Ahem.

The live album is a peculiar thing. Some love it, as a way of showcasing an artist’s talent, while others hate it, as an unreasonable representation of a bands’ live ability, or as a grossly overpriced greatest hits album, that misses out on the “greatest hits” (openly opting for filler tracks to appeal to the hardcore fan), while also fulfilling contractual obligations to the record label, concerning the quantity of the artists’ recorded output. They’re both wrong.

Or rather, they are both right. You see the cynics are right (as we usually are), and that pretty much sums up the mass majority of the live albums that are produced. However, the supporters aren’t wrong either. A good live album makes an impact far greater than a greatest hits album. A good live album has tracks that rank highly next to the studio album, and also document the natural changes in a bands evolution. With this in mind, here are 5 of the best.

1: Scorpions ft Berliner Philharmoniker : Moment of Glory : 2000

Being released in the shadow of one of the most successful live albums of all time, Metallica’s S&M, can’t be easy, especially when your album bears a striking resemblance to the premise of it. Yes, Moment of Glory is a rock/symphony collaboration, released only one year after the Metallica offering (although 3 years before Kiss would cash in on similar territory with Kiss Symphony: Alive IV). There is a notable difference in the production of the two albums though. While S&M had world famous Michael Kamen at the helm, Moment had Christian Kolonovits. No I don’t know who he is either. Then there was the set list and length. The Scorpions output is a relatively short 60 minutes long, compared to the two disk 133 minute extravaganza by Metallica.

So why choose Moment of Glory over S&M? Simple. Moment of Glory is ridiculous from the outset, preposterously rebranding their rock anthem hit Rock You Like a Hurricane into a trendier (sic) Hurricane 2000, as an opening track, while at times seemingly allowing the orchestra to run riot. It’s over the top, uncontrollable and wild, and I love it. Stadium rock has always sold itself on being bigger, sillier and more epic than everyone else. This is what you get when you mix such an attitude with a full orchestra, and, considering it toured around the Baltic States and Russia, I’d imagine a fair amount of vodka thrown in to boot.

The album is by no means perfect though. Apart from Hurricane 2000 and Wind of Change there are no real big hitters on this album. If you don’t like the sound of an orchestra, this really isn’t for you, as it takes S&M’s atmospheric sound, and turns its into a full blown symphony, with some guitars stuck on as somewhat of an afterthought. That eccentricity is what the Scorpions are however; a glance at their album covers will confirm it for you. In that respect, this is one of the most honest live albums ever produced.

2: Pink Floyd : Pulse : 1995

A potentially controversial decision here, Pulse was almost universally slammed on release, and the reasons for this weren’t unreasonable. Some considered that the album, which was recorded over 20 different shows, wasn’t a “true” live album; some criticised Pink Floyd for having taken a large crew on tour with them in order to record this album; some criticised the fact that the stage show was so elaborate, it didn’t allow for any improvisation on stage, or any jamming; some criticised the fact that only 7 years and 1 album prior to its release, Pink Floyd had released another live album, one which they claimed would be their last. Some even complained that the crowd track wasn’t equalised properly, and that the crowd are louder in some parts of the album than others. None of these criticisms are wrong.

Regardless, the album reached number one in multiple countries, including the UK albums chart. To be fair, Pink Floyd could have released anything, and it would reach number one. So why this disaster of an album? Because it sounds damn good, that’s why. If an album is a showcase of what a band is like live, this is as constructed and false as Liberal Democrat election manifesto (topical humour, har har), but damn is it an attractive package. Firstly it contains a large amount of the hits, including the Dark Side of the Moon album in its entirety, as well as a rare performance of Astronomy Domine. It also contains the classic Pink Floyd hits that no live album of theirs should be without, including a rendition of Comfortably Numb like no other, surpassing even the studio version of the song. The album is dark, brooding and atmospheric, as you would imagine, and is a perfect album to lie back to and just listen.

I own the original copy of this album, the one with the led light packaging, and it is eccentricities like this that cast doubt over Pink Floyd for some people. Another of these would be that for this tour, Volkswagen released a special edition car.  That’s right, a fucking car. These were the 90’s however, and this is Pink Floyd we are talking about. The album itself remains a tribute to the beauty of their songs, performed beautifully, and is an incredible listen.

(It’s worth noting at this point that yet another computer cock up occurred, and another large section was lost, which may explain the briefness of that last paragraph. I shall persevere)

3:Bad Religion : 30 Years Live : 2010

At time of writing, this album has only been out for about 3 months, and I should also tell you that they sent it to me, for free. Obviously this has biased my view towards the album, but I am sure I would have included it anyway.

Bad Religion are the most famous band you don’t know. As the title of this live album suggests, they’ve been around for 30 years, and have become an incredible driving force and influence behind American punk rock post the 1980’s. Their music, style, or imagery has been used in over 25 films or mainstream television shows, and their music features on over 10 mainstream video game soundtracks. They are cited as influences by nearly every single major punk band that hails from America since 1980, and guitarist Brett Gurewitz owns and manages the Epitaph record label, home to a massive amount of US talent.

Bad Religion themselves have never fared amazingly successfully over here in the UK however. Maybe it’s the angry competition that exists between the UK and US punk scenes being extended, but for such a celebrated band to be so largely ignored is crazy.

Bad Religion have always stuck to their roots, and doing what their best at, which is political, high energy punk, never shying away from using an extended vocabulary, never scared of being perceived as over intelligent, and they are fantastic. Like many other artists of similar genre, Bad Religion use simplistic technique and song construction to convey complicated and sometimes radical ideals, and never suffer because of it. 30 Years Live is different to many live albums, in that a fair few of the bands major hits are missing from it, in place of newer songs, which is odd when you consider the name of the album. This doesn’t affect the quality of the album, as it is still a ferocious and unforgiving experience. Punk doesn’t usually translate well in this way, but 30 Years Live is a great effort, and would easily convert many who are unsure about Bad Religion as a band.

Unlike the previous 2 albums I have discussed, 30 Years Live is not smooth and polished, nor would it sound good that way. 30 Years is raw, proving that those newer tracks are just as powerful as the old ones, and that you don’t need to constantly replay your big guns just to produce something worth listening to. And I got it for free.

4:Iron Maiden : Flight 666 : 2009

Is this cheating? Who knows! I watched the film at the cinema, curious as to how Maiden toured, being one of the most famous touring bands in the world (and a personal favourite). I was blown away by the sound quality of it all, and how perfect the songs were performed. Like any decent cash in, a soundtrack is available, so I think I’m safe including this.

Unlike 30 Years Live, which proves that the band are very much alive and fresh, Flight 666 proves that the classic songs and band themselves are fresh. There isn’t a dud track, and it is set listed to near perfection. It doesn’t pretend that you are at one gig; instead it exploits the fact that it was performed over an entire tour, and as such it is a pleasure to listen to.

The dark side to all of this is of course Maidens history of live albums. I have no internet access at the moment to research just how many of them there actually are, but suffice to say that there are lots, and all are varying degrees of poor, some nothing short of abysmal (and that’s not including bootlegs of tours). Arguably the best before this was their Rock In Rio live album/dvd, but even that had its flaws. Flight 666 makes it on this list by being a shining exception to the rather depressing rule.

5: Various : Radio 1’s Live Lounge Vol.2 : 2007

This one IS cheating, but I couldn’t give less of a shit. Radio 1’s Live Lounge is a distressingly successful series of albums that are compiled of songs that are performed on BBC Radio 1. Being mostly made up of pop and indie artists, there is usually no way to successfully cover your song on air without the necessary backing track and suchlike, so many of these artists opt to perform acoustically, which can (and often does) result in a startlingly different take on a song that you are probably bored to tears of hearing played on the radio. Some of these artists choose to cover a different popular song of a completely different style, which leads to some interesting and fascinating results.

The reason that this album is on my list, is that it’s approach to music helps redefine the qualities of a song, the aspects of the original song which made it popular, and helps you to rediscover parts of a song that made it great or attractive. Collision Course by Linkin Park and Jay Z did exactly the same thing extremely well, although I omitted their album as it isn’t actually live (although the two artists did tour the album).

I have chosen this particular volume of Radio 1’s Live Lounge as, bar from one track (the second one), all of the songs sounds great and are very listenable to. Some of the highlights of it are Corinne Bailey Rae singing Sexyback, Biffy Clyro singing Umbrella, and Avril Lavigne singing The Scientist. The finest moment on it, perhaps, is Robyn’s haunting piano version of her own hit With Every Heartbeat. All of them are peaceful and beautiful. What more could you ask?